Happy 50th, “Sleeping Beauty”

posted by Coate on October 30, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty"
50th Anniversary — The Original Engagements

Commemorating the golden anniversary of the release of Walt Disney’s animated film production of “Sleeping Beauty,” I’ve put together a list of the film’s original roadshow* bookings. These were the first cinemas anywhere to play the film and, for the most part, the only ones to showcase the film in 70mm and stereophonic sound. This article is a celebration of the cinemas in which the film played as much as it is a celebration of the classic film.

(*Officially, “Sleeping Beauty” was not a roadshow release since screenings were continuous and seats were not reserved. However, many moviegoers and historians tend to remember the film as a roadshow because the film was booked initially as a 70mm exclusive in roadshow markets.)

The original “Sleeping Beauty” presentations included the CinemaScope short film “Grand Canyon.”

The bookings are listed chronologically by premiere date. In this instance, I’ve elected not to include any specific duration data for the entries. (These original engagements ran an average of 8-12 weeks, with 17 being the longest that I tracked.)

01.29.1959 … Beverly Hills, CA —– Fox Wilshire

02.10.1959 … Miami Beach, FL —– Sheridan
02.11.1959 … San Francisco, CA —– Coronet
02.12.1959 … Boston, MA —– Gary
02.12.1959 … Chicago, IL —– State-Lake
02.12.1959 … Dallas, TX —– Tower
02.17.1959 … New York, NY —– Criterion
02.18.1959 … Baltimore, MD —– New
02.18.1959 … Buffalo, NY —– Century
02.18.1959 … Oklahoma City, OK —– State
02.18.1959 … Rochester, NY —– Monroe
02.18.1959 … Washington, DC —– Uptown
02.19.1959 … Seattle, WA —– Blue Mouse
02.20.1959 … Houston, TX —– Tower
02.20.1959 … Syracuse, NY —– Eckel
02.25.1959 … New Orleans, LA —– Panorama
02.27.1959 … San Antonio, TX —– Broadway

03.04.1959 … Detroit, MI —– United Artists
03.04.1959 … Richmond, VA —– Willow Lawn
03.05.1959 … Minneapolis, MN —– Academy
03.06.1959 … Pittsburgh, PA —– Nixon
03.06.1959 … Portland, OR —– Broadway
03.12.1959 … Shreveport, LA —– Saenger
03.13.1959 … Atlanta, GA —– Roxy
03.18.1959 … Philadelphia, PA —– Goldman
03.19.1959 … Columbus, OH —– Cinestage
03.20.1959 … Corpus Christi, TX —– Tower
03.20.1959 … Dayton, OH —– McCook
03.20.1959 … Denver, CO —– Centre
03.20.1959 … Honolulu, HI —– Queen
03.20.1959 … San Diego, CA —– Capri
03.25.1959 … Providence, RI —– Elmwood
03.26.1959 … Cincinnati, OH —– Valley
03.26.1959 … Kansas City, MO —– Brookside
03.27.1959 … Indianapolis, IN —– Lyric

04.15.1959 … Tampa, FL —– Britton

06.03.1959 … Salt Lake City, UT —– Villa
06.12.1959 … Norfolk, VA —– Memrose
06.12.1959 … Phoenix, AZ —– Fox
06.19.1959 … Jacksonville, FL —– 5 Points
06.19.1959 … Milwaukee, WI —– Strand
06.19.1959 … Omaha, NE —– State

07.02.1959 … Lexington, KY —– Strand

??.??.1959 … Louisville, KY —– Brown
??.??.1959 … St. Louis, MO —– Pageant
??.??.1959 … Utica, NY —– Uptown

In addition to the bookings listed above, “Sleeping Beauty” might have played in the following markets/theaters during the initial 70mm-exclusive period prior to the film’s general release (additional research is required for verification): Albany, NY (Ritz); Atlantic City, NJ (Virginia); Beaumont, TX (Liberty); Charlotte, NC (Carolina or Manor); Des Moines, IA (Orpheum); Fort Wayne, IN (Clyde); Little Rock, AR (Capitol); Memphis, TN (Crosstown); Nashville, TN (Crescent); Sacramento, CA (Alhambra or Tower); Tulsa, OK (Rialto or Ritz); Wichita Falls, TX (State).

North American roadshow markets that played “Sleeping Beauty” only in its 35mm general-release version (despite having at the time at least one 70mm-equipped venue) included Cleveland, OH; Hartford, CT; Montreal, QC; Toledo, OH; Toronto, ON; Vancouver, BC, and Youngstown, OH.

The 35mm nationwide general release began in June 1959. The first international playdates began in July 1959. The film was officially re-issued during 1970, 1979, 1986 and 1995.

References: This article was compiled primarily by referencing film industry trade publications and newspaper promotion.

Thanks: Claude Ayakawa, Mark Huffstetler, Bill Kretzel, Mark Lensenmayer, Rick Mitchell, Bob Throop, Vince Young, and the librarians who helped me research the information for this project.

Feedback and reminiscences welcome….

Comments (21)

GFeret
GFeret on October 30, 2009 at 8:37 pm

That Walt elected to photograph this triumph of classic hand-drawn animation, the last to use line-inking technique as opposed to xerography of 101 Dalmations, onto 70mm (the only one done so) has always seemed peculiar to me for the time of its production and release. Why? In the late ‘50s outside of T0DD-AO releases there wasn’t any other 70mm production, save Raintree County and Ben-Hur(coming after Sleeping Beauty which was in production 5 yrs IIRC). So from an exhibition standpoint it makes little sense, was the intent to take advantage of the 70mm installations so far used only for the TODD-AO’s? Hmmm.

On the other hand from a production standpoint it makes tremendous sense to me, not only that shows ambitious vision. In other words Walt committed to the new format instead for it’s negative quality, all the enormously labor-intensive work was to be captured in the new large gauge so it is best preserved for future generations. This view separate thinking from how it may or may not be actually exhibited.

That’s my own thinking so far, not without it’s logic holes, i.e., the rich 3-strip Technicolor process Disney commonly employed in 35mm did not exist in 70mm. So while you have the potential for magnificent image detail in 70mm, color rendtion’s be superior in the 35mm reductions that were all (at the time) printed IB Tech.

A final point, the Wikipedia website that lists all 70mm feature productions from the start, curiously omits Sleeping Beauty. Why, because only live-action? I don’t think so.

PeterApruzzese
PeterApruzzese on October 30, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Sleeping Beauty wasn’t shot on 70mm, it was shot in SuperTechnirama, which was 35mm running horizontally with a 1.5x squeeze.

PeterApruzzese
PeterApruzzese on October 30, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Sorry – not SuperTechnirama, but just Technirama. More info here:
View link

GFeret
GFeret on October 30, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Thank you Peter. I wonder (and will soon do the math myself), the exact square-inch (or perhaps more properly square-millimeter) area difference, between a 65mm 5-perf. negative and the (horizontal) 8-perf. 35mm of Technirama (not to mention VistaVision).

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on October 30, 2009 at 10:37 pm

hey this is jordan rogers, mike rogers daughter. Sleeping Beauty was my favorite movie growing up as a child. she still is my favorite princess i love her. the dark knight is now my favorite movie but i always havea place in my heart for her.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on October 30, 2009 at 10:37 pm

hey this is jordan rogers, mike rogers daughter. Sleeping Beauty was my favorite movie growing up as a child. she still is my favorite princess i love her. the dark knight is now my favorite movie but i always havea place in my heart for her.

vincentvendetta
vincentvendetta on October 31, 2009 at 12:57 am

Sleeping Beauty opened at the Uptown Theater on July 1, 1959 and was advertised as being presented in Technirama 70 and Full Stereophonic Sound. It was the Uptown’s first 70mm film. It played for three weeks.

vincentvendetta
vincentvendetta on October 31, 2009 at 12:59 am

The comment about the Uptown Theater on July 1. 1959 should have included that it was the Uptown in Utica, NY. Sorry.

ctrwd
ctrwd on October 31, 2009 at 9:28 am

Sleeping Beauty was reissued in 70mm sometime in the 1980s, because that’s the way I saw it at the Northpoint Theatre in San Francisco. At least, that’s the way it was advertised. I didn’t crash the projection booth to verify that. I went early enough to catch two showings consecutively, as I knew that would probably be the last chance of ever seeing it that way.

Manwithnoname
Manwithnoname on October 31, 2009 at 9:38 pm

In 1980 I saw a 70mm double feature of Sleeping Beauty and The Black Hole at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.

raysson
raysson on November 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm

I saw Disney’s Sleeping Beauty also when it was reissued for its exclusive 70mm-6 track Dobly Stereo enagement when it played in Washington,DC at the Uptown Theatre back in the late 1980’s and 1990’s.

MPol
MPol on November 1, 2009 at 10:53 pm

I saw the film “Sleeping Beauty” in a now-defunct Boston movie Theatre (the name which escapes me at the moment) at a friend’s birthday party back in 1959, in the second grade. It was a well-done, well-printed film, which I enjoyed a great deal.

Mark_L
Mark_L on November 2, 2009 at 1:48 am

I definitely remember seeing SLEEPING BEAUTY at Hunt’s Cinestage, but I don’t think it was during this run. I definitely remember GRAND CANYON SUITE and the end of the film where the thorn branches appear, but I thought I was a bit older when I saw that. Maybe my Grandmother took me to it. Were there any 70mm rereleases a few years later?

MPol
MPol on November 2, 2009 at 5:37 am

Not sure, but I did also see “Grand Canyon Suite” along with “Sleeping Beauty. That was another beautiful film.

Shigeaki
Shigeaki on November 3, 2009 at 1:46 am

I saw SLEEPING BEAUTY twice in 70mm. The first time was during it’s first run at the Queen Theatre in Honolulu. The theatre was not in Waikiki where most of the cities 70mm houses were but in the Kaimuki district on the outskirts of Honolului. Usually Consolidated Theatres, a much larger film exhibitor in Honolulu would have played the film but a rival chain, Royal Amusement Company with only a few theatres played it because they had a exclusive first run right to all of Disney film in Honolulu at that time. Herman Rosen the head of the chain went all out to equip it’s best theatre, the Queen with 70mm. where it played for a very long time.

The company’s flagship theatre, the Royal opened a few year later in Waikiki and that was where I saw it again in 70mm. The Royal was a gorgeous theatee and the presentation of SLEEPING BEAUTY was much better because the Royal had a larger screen and better sound system.

muviebuf
muviebuf on November 3, 2009 at 9:33 pm

At the Eckel in Syracuse NY they took out the Baker (center) Cinerama projector and installed a set of 70MM projectors which came from a theatre in Buffalo NY just for Sleeping Beauty.

MPol
MPol on November 3, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Wow! That must’ve been neat!

Coate
Coate on November 5, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Film historian Rick Mitchell, who is not a Cinema Treasures member and therefore does not post here, has given me permission to post this message of his regarding “Sleeping Beauty”:

[quote]Some FYI background on this: according to a 1958 Variety article, Walt Disney, noting the superior quality of the reduction dailies on SLEEPING BEAUTY over the cartoons they’d shot in CinemaScope as well as the grosses of AROUND THE WORLD… and SOUTH PACIFIC in their 70mm roadshow engagements, asked Technicolor if it would be possible to make 70mm prints on the film. According to an SMPTE Journal item also that year, Technicolor had already successfully made test blowups directly from the 8 perf negative of live action subjects, but SLEEPING BEAUTY presented a potential problem. Like all Disney color cartoon subjects and most cartoon features made by others until computers came in, it had been photographed on a “sequential exposure” (SE) negative. That is, each cel setup would be photographed three times through filters of the primary or secondary colors onto a black-and-white negative. Until 1974, on all such films dye transfer printed by Technicolor, the matrice for the proper color would be made by skip frame optical printing. I’ve never heard how daily prints were done after 1955 when the industry essentially went exclusively to color positive stock for this purpose (Jack Theakston may know), but for color positive release prints, it was necessary to make either a black-and-white or color combined master positive and from that a color internegative. Technicolor did tests to determine the image quality loss from this process and Disney deemed the results satisfactory enough to authorize the 70mm release.

Exactly which process was used is not known. When he was archivist at Disney and did the last film restoration of SLEEPING BEAUTY, Scott MacQueen told me he couldn’t find any intermediate elements or paperwork related to it. He guesses that they made an 8 perf color IP from the SE negative, as this could then be used to generate material for trailers and such things as the promo shown on “Disneyland” in which scenes from the film were matted into a theater screen at the 2.2:1 AR. He guessed that would have been 8 perf to maintain image quality, but doesn’t know if they then made an 8 perf internegative and made the 70mm prints from that, or made a 65mm internegative. Either way the prints would have been done on an optical printer as that’s how Technicolor always made 70mm prints in the Fifties, even from 65mm originals. And the optical printer lens used to “correct” the 1.5x squeeze image was specially made by Panavision and later used to make the 70mm prints on SPARTACUS and possibly SOLOMON AND SHEBA.

For the early Eighties reissue of SLEEPING BEAUTY, a 35mm 2x squeeze internegative was made from the 8 perf separation positives and the 70mm prints made off that. Scott’s restoration went back to the SE neg, from which he made a new set of 8 perf separations on Estar stock, a new 35mm anamorphic internegative and a new 65mm internegative.

And of course it’s recently been subjected to digitalis.[/quote]

Shigeaki
Shigeaki on November 5, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I was twenty years old when SLEEPING BEAUTY released and still remember one of the television promotion Disney did during the studio’s weekly telecast. As I recall, Disney’s weekly TV show was not yet with NBC but at ABC. Clips of the film was shown in letterbox with a stereo simulcast. There were no FM stereo receivers at that time and the only way to do stereo was with our local ABC radio affiliate broadcasting one of the sound channel and the the TV the other. All one had to do was place the AM radio about ten feet from the TV and set the volume exactly as the TV. It was a very crude method but it sounded very nice at the time.

Shigeaki
Shigeaki on November 5, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I was twenty years old when SLEEPING BEAUTY released and still remember one of the television promotion Disney did during the studio’s weekly telecast. As I recall, Disney’s weekly TV show was not yet with NBC but at ABC. Clips of the film was shown in letterbox with a stereo simulcast. There were no FM stereo receivers at that time and the only way to do stereo was with our local ABC radio affiliate broadcasting one of the sound channel and the the TV the other. All one had to do was place the AM radio about ten feet from the TV and set the volume exactly as the TV. It was a very crude method but it sounded very nice at the time.

Coate
Coate on November 5, 2009 at 11:37 pm

A couple of comments from above have mentioned the short “Grand Canyon Suite,” which I would like to clarify was actually titled, simply, “Grand Canyon”; it was the music in that film that was called “Grand Canyon Suite.”

It may also be worth pointing out that while “Grand Canyon” was shown with all of the initial “roadshow” bookings of “Sleeping Beauty,” it was not necessarily shown with every general-release presentation. In many situations a different short was shown (such as “Ama Girls”), or instead of including a short the film was double billed.

**Some sources refer to the film as “Grand Canyonscope” because it was intended to serve as a demonstration film for the CinemaScope process.

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